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‘It’s everything to me’: Softball player returns to game after ACL surgery

<i>KCCI</i><br/>Sydni Huisman was a freshman at Central College in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
KCCI
Sydni Huisman was a freshman at Central College in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began. "The pandemic hit

By Shannon Ehrhardt

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    PELLA, Iowa (KCCI) — Sydni Huisman was a freshman at Central College in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“The pandemic hit, and it was devastating,” Huisman said. “We didn’t really know what was taken away from us at the time.”

It was only the start of a challenging college career.

“We were wearing masks all the time. It wasn’t the same,” Huisman said.

Fast-forward to 2022, the masks pulled off, and Huisman was ready to be in control of her first “normal” collegiate season.

“I had the best pitching I felt in my life,” she said. “Everything was working for me.”

Then it all changed.

“Last year, we were extremely excited… Sydni is healthy, and her junior teammates are healthy,” head coach George Wares said. “Then, 15-30 minutes before the first pitch (of the first game of the season), I look across the field and she’s down.”

“I throw a fastball inside, and it comes off my hand, and I just fall forward. I didn’t really know what happened,” Huisman said.

“She blew her ACL in a non-contact injury, and she’s done,” Wares said.

It was the last sentence an athlete ever wants to hear.

“Softball has been my life; it is my passion. It’s everything to me. My world kind of flipped. I was no longer a player at that moment, I was just going to be a teammate, a cheerleader,” Huisman said.

But that didn’t last long.

“I didn’t want to be on the sidelines all the time,” Huisman said. “I thought I could contribute; I really did.” So, with a torn ACL, Huisman pitched 30 innings.

“Every once in a while, it would give on me, and I had to just take a deep breath, let the pain kind of go and come back. But I think it helped me grow mentally as an athlete, knowing what I could do when I’m not 100%,” Huisman said.

Not even a year after surgery, Huisman is in full tilt.

“The first game this season, the first two pitches, I was shaking on the mound,” Huisman said. “I had such high expectations going into the season because I lost out the last three seasons. I just wanted the season to be good for so many reasons.”

The senior is 14-3, with an ERA well below 2.00, and gives up less than a walk or hit per inning.

“To finally get the season that… we had hoped that we would get freshman year. This is what you want as a college athlete. You want to be playing at these high levels. You want to be in this winning environment. And it’s surreal that it actually is panning out for us so far,” Huisman said.

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